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Celebrating. Remembering. Fighting back. These were key components of the American Cancer Society Relay For Life of Iroquois County event on Friday-Saturday, June 14-15.

Celebrating took place through the more than 160 survivors and caregivers who began the walking part of the evening by making the first lap around the Watseka High School track. Remembering loved ones and friends was done as walkers passed the nearly 900 glowing luminaria that lined the darkened track during the Luminaria Ceremony at 9 PM.

Fighting back against cancer was part of the attitudes of 37 women and men who donated lengths of hair to help make wigs for people going through cancer treatment. Cancer survivors assisted in the cutting of hair, making this Ponytail Drive and Fight Back Ceremony a poignant part of the evening.

During the opening ceremonies, Ryan Rodgers, a newly-graduated senior from Monticello, Illinois, told the Relay participants about his experience with a summer research program sponsored by the Illinois Division of the American Cancer Society. As part of the 8-week program, students are assigned individual projects to research.

Rodgers worked on hydrogel research in which he and other students developed a Jello-like composition to use instead of a Petri dish for doing research on brain cancer. Research projects like this one are funded by dollars raised through Relay For Life.

Rodgers said, "This program is a great way for students to learn about what happens in a lab. I encourage high school juniors to talk to their school counselors to see if applying for an American Cancer Society summer research program might be for them."

As the Relay teams made their way around the track, their members were dressed to reflect the Iroquois County Relay 2013 theme of "10 Decades of ACS--Why Not Celebrate Big?" 2013 is the 100th anniversary of the American Cancer Society.

By the end of the event $127,115 had been collected to help in the fight against cancer. In Illinois, 72 cents of every dollar go to fighting cancer through research, education, advocacy and services for cancer patients and their families. 21 cents go to raise mission-critical funds, honor survivors and remember loved ones lost to cancer. 7 cents is for general costs and overhead. As of the end of 2012, the lifetime net contribution to Relay from Iroquois County was $1,771,994.

The top 5 teams in order of their earnings are: Wolfie's Walkers, a team formed to honor the memory of Jerry Wolfe, contributed $13,806.62. Tracy's Casey's Trotters, a team new to Relay from the Crescent City Casey's store, raised $10,379.94 in their first year. Pennies from Heaven, a team representing the Crescent City Methodist Church and a charter team of 13 years with RFL in Iroquois County, gave $9,519.28. The Survivors by Faith team from St. John's Lutheran Church, Ash Grove, supplied $8,623.96. Team Mara, a family team formed by the Ralph Buswell family in memory of family member Mara Verkler and a charter team of 13 years with RFL in Iroquois County, contributed $8,617.49. Business sponsors to Relay For Life gave a total of $43,405 in cash and in-kind donations.

Continuing information about the Iroquois County Relay For Life is available at the website www.relayforlife.org/iroquoisil.

Event Chairman Jean Lareau said, "This evening, this energy, and this event would not be possible without the support of volunteers, sponsors and participants from Iroquois County. I am grateful for your passion in helping us find a cure for cancer!"

94.1 FM, WGFA